Maternity Leave in California

In a nation that does little to offset the burden of new parenthood, at the very least, I’m glad I live in the state of California.  I finally called my HR department to figure out how to file a claim for maternity leave, and if I choose, I can get a total of six months off.  The key to getting this much time off is short-term disability insurance.  Short-term disability allows you to get 55-60% f your pay while on leave.  There is one big caveat, if your salary is greater than $65k, you will hit the cap payout by the state and won’t get more than that.  Since I opted to buy into supplemental insurance on top of STD, I’ll be getting 80% of my pay throughout most of my leave.  Another benefit to getting supplemental insurance is that there is no cap.

My company website doesn’t talk about these California laws at all.  I asked my co-workers what they did for maternity leave and also have friends who work in Human Resources, so they were able to give me insight into these laws.  If I had just gone with my company’s maternity leave “benefits”, I would’ve just gotten the standard 12-weeks UNPAID, job-protected leave through FMLA.

Anyway, the laws are extremely confusing because some of them run concurrently.  I finally figured out what I had to do after discussing this with not one, not two, but three HR representatives.  I was hearing different things, so I needed it to be crystal clear.  Does getting time off for maternity leave really need to be this complicated?

In California, there are 4 laws you should look into when planning maternity leave:

  1. Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) – covered under short-term disability insurance.  Most people will get the standard 55-60% of their salary covered under this.
  2. Paid Family Leave Act (PFL) – also covered under short-term disability insurance.  Most people will get the standard 55-60% of their salary covered under this.
  3. Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Runs concurrently with PDL.  UNPAID, job-protected leave.  To be eligible, you must work for a company with 50+ employees, and you must’ve been with the company at least one year.
  4. California Family Rights Act (CFRA) – kicks in after FMLA ends.  Runs concurrently with PFL.  UNPAID, job-protected leave.  To be eligible, you must work for a company with 50+ employees, and you must’ve been with the company at least one year.

FMLA + Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) – This is where we would start.  These two laws run concurrently, except one is paid and one is unpaid, and both kick in at the same time.  California law allows up to 4 weeks paid leave prior to your due date if you’re paying into short-term disability insurance.  The state will pay 55-60% of your salary during this 4-week period.  Once the baby is born, you continue to get paid disability for an additional 6 weeks (with a vaginal delivery), or 8 weeks (with a c-section).

To sum it up – FMLA + PDL gives you 10-12 weeks of job-protected leave at 55-60% pay.  My PDL will run out 2 weeks sooner than my FMLA if I have a vaginal delivery, leaving me 2 extra weeks of unpaid leave.  This leaves me with a total of 12-weeks off so far (4 weeks prior to delivery + 8 weeks after).  This still isn’t much at all…

Once my FMLA + PDL is over, the CFRA + PFL combination kicks in.

California Family Rights Act (CFRA) + Paid Family Leave (PFL) – These two also run concurrently and start at the same time.  CFRA offers 12 weeks of job-protected baby bonding time after your PDL ends, but it is unpaid.  That’s why it’s a good idea to utilize PFL as well during this time.  PFL falls under your short-term disability insurance, so you get 6 weeks paid at 55-60% of your salary.  With PFL, you will get at least partial pay for 6 of the 12-weeks covered by CFRA.

To sum it up – CFRA + PFL would provide 6 weeks at 55-60% pay, then 6 weeks unpaid.

If you’re still confused, check out this even-more-confusing chart!!


In the end, I would get a total of 24 weeks of leave.  Most of it would be with partial pay, and the last 6 weeks would be unpaid.  However, I have been saving up as much PTO as possible in case I wanted to apply some of that to my last few weeks of leave.

Let’s do the math = 12 weeks under FMLA & PDL + 12 weeks under CFRA & PFL = 24 weeks total.

Now I need to go deal with my next headache – all that paperwork I’ll need to fill out!  I have to file a claim through my company’s HR department AND through the state.  You can find all the state paperwork here.

What’s maternity leave like in your state or country?  How much time do you plan to take off?


7 thoughts on “Maternity Leave in California

    • I can take up to 6 months, but I’m thinking of taking just 4 months off since my boss said I could telecommute full time after my leave. I think as a 2nd time mom, I’ll be more ready to go back to work sooner.

  1. This is not a bad deal! In Australia, it depends on your company policy and if you meet the criteria to receive a benefit from the Government. Most larger companies offer paid maternity leave of around 12 weeks at full salary, and then up to 40 weeks unpaid. Unfortunately, i’m in a smaller company, and only receive up to 12 months UNPAID maternity leave. I am, however, eligible for the Government benefit, but it’s only 18 weeks pay at minimum award wage in Australia which is not even 10% of my salary. Still, it’s better than nothing!

  2. Also, STD payment is not taxable income. For example, if you make $1,000 and at typical 25% tax bracket, your usual take home pay is $750. If you have supplemental STD and it pays 80%, then you get $800 – no taxes taken out. Depending on your tax bracket and how much the supplemental STD pays, the money you get is usually very close to your net after tax pay. Alot of women will not take the 4 wks before the due date because they want to get their full pay for as long as possible, but in most cases, you’re not giving up as much of your pay as you think because the STD $ is not taxable income.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s